Greatest show on Earth as it is in Hell
I can’t remember exactly when in 2012 I saw a poster of the band Hell announcing that in February 2013 we are invited to attend the greatest show on Earth (as it is in Hell, obviously). It didn’t take me long to buy plane tickets, book a hotel and a concert ticket. It sounded too special to be missed, and I cannot congratulate myself enough for the investment I made. An investment in some of the most awesome live experience ever. I still haven’t found the proper superlative to use for describing how the greatest show on earth turned out. Luckily, the venue in Derby also hosted a bunch of guys with video cameras who captured every moment of the madness and sooner or later a DVD will be available for the whole world to watch.
The whole Saturday in Derby should have been captured on video, I’d say. After locating my hotel and where the Darwin Suite/Assembly Rooms venue was located, I headed to the ‘Outstanding Order’ pub which was a cool mix of regulars watching sports on the big screen and a way more numerous amount of Hell tshirt bearers (one of the reason to gather there was the fact that they were serving a 6.66% potion brewed especially for the event and called The Devil’s Deadly Weapon). Seriously, at most concerts I go, there’s a certain percentage in the audience wearing the band’s tshirts. And then a big number with classic Maiden, Slayer, Metallica etc (call classic what you want here) and then some neutrals. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen something close to 90% wearing the main act’s logo on their clothes. And out of the remaining ones, a certain part was the kind to make you turn your head on the street: a Jesus Christ costume with the adequate thorns crown; a non JC costume, yet an adequate crown and face paint; crown, red contact lenses and face paint; only face paint. An interesting bunch of folks, nevertheless. Oh, and not to forget the one who had a 666, Hell style, tattooed (or well, drawn at least) on top of his skull.
Before entering the venue, we (the photographers) were handed a letter warning that there will be BIG pyro effects on stage and we are not outside the 4 meters safety range (or so), hence we are not covered by insurance. And something else about mortar gargoyles. But prior to facing the dangers of being so close to Hell, we were treated ‘normally’ by the two opening acts, A thousand Enemies and Winterfylleth. The first one, a local melodic hard rock metal band, with good potential and stage presence and the second one, a black metal act from Manchester, but less convincing on stage due their lack of black metal ‘look’. But very interesting music wise, since I never heard a black metal British product. With all due respect to the young musicians, I was so thrilled and excited about the main act, that I could barely focus on their performances for more than a couple of songs.
I was probably packed with adrenaline by the time they dropped down the big curtain hiding the pedestal with the 666 labeled drum kit, the background with Hellish drawings on stained glass, the huge band logo, the ramps leading up to the drums, the organ, the gargoyles and the countless other details one hardly has time to notice and that built the perfect church of Hell for that evening. Before everything turned dark and two silhouettes covered in black robes stepped on the stage with torches and lit some big candles, we had a spokesman who wisely invited all the sinners and fornicators of all present nations to make their choice for the night. The answer was loud as Hell! And as obvious as that.
The rest became quickly an unforgettable legend. At least for those present at Darwin Suite. It’s hard to imagine the amount of work behind those 100 minutes that we witnessed. Besides the setup of the stage itself, the directing of all the pyro effects, the stage movements, the costumes, the lights, the sound, the…everything. Probably everyone backstage at that concert deserves a round of applauses. Yet, we only got to see the final product delivered by the British quintet: David Bower – Vocals, Kev Bower – Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals, Andy Sneap – Guitar, Tony Speakman – Bass and Tim Bowler – Drums.
The vocalist deserves a 10 pages review, and then you’d need 5 more to fully try to evoke the theatrical aspect of such a show. It’s in the way they picked the clothes and the face paint and the contact lenses. Then the way there’s a thorns crown worn by the singer. The way the guitarists do synchronised head banging, body bending and small jumps. They even turn into fakirs for a short moment when they had to ‘spit fire’. But most of the show is stolen by Dave Bower’s art of acting. He’s good at it. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. He probably manages to make everyone in the crowd feel like at least once they established eye contact with him. After that, they are bound to follow his every move. Whether he kneels on stage, whether he points up, down, left, right, whether he comes dressed as a priest, as a plague collector or as a demon walking on stilts covered in black fur and wearing massive horns on his head and a trident in his hands. And the trident spits fire and sparkles and it’s being rotated in the air so that the white sparkles fill the stage. On the next song he’s back to his normal size, goes up in the pulpit where his face is lit in green and from where he spits more fire from a big cross he’s holding. The same pulpit was used to throw out more fire out of a gigantic Bible. Actually, I believe that everything Dave held during the show ended up spitting fire or sparkles. Except a red whip. He only used that to, well, whip himself and then threw it in the crowd for one of the dedicated fans to go on the tradition.
He must have made the Swedes present in the audience really happy when he borrowed their flag and wrapped his chest in it. But overall he made everyone happy with his performance. Everyone I talked with after the show was mind blown, even if they had seen the band live before. Actually it felt like everyone in the band just set new standards for what a high quality show means. I’ve previously seen metal shows with way more pyro and way more stuff happening on stage, but they were all on those big stages and you ‘share’ the band together with 50.000 other people. I never saw such a majestic event together with so few other people and I doubt any full stadium will ever beat the familiar feeling you get by being part of that evening’s crowd.
Let’s try to say a bit about the music, which the band didn’t compromise at all. We didn’t miss any of those catchy solos, we didn’t miss the creepy playful intros on songs from Human Remains. We didn’t miss new materials either. Actually some old and some new, since, as far as I understand, at least one of the ‘new’ songs was previously heard live. But we got to hear Darkhangel, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Disposer Supreme. For me, Bedtime was also a first audition and for everyone it was the ending tune of the evening. Tune dedicated to the band’s previous frontman, Dave Halliday.
I don’t know if my words have even remotely managed to tell you how impressive the performance was. But I know for sure that if this is how it is on Hell, then may it always be like that on Earth! It’d be a much better place!